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over it

 

I was over it.

Ever been there? It happens when you’re exposed to something more than once, and then you realize that maybe it’s not your favorite. I’m not talking about despise levels. It wasn’t anything near that severe, and in all honesty, it probably had more to do with personal preferences—as in not liking cucumbers in your salad. I’ll eat it that way, but I’d rather not if it can be avoided.

I had grown indifferent to visiting Africa again. That’s not really normal for me. Been there, done that, and I’d seen more than enough, but all the romantic juice had been drained off. The curiosity had been satisfied. Simply, I was over it. Over Africa and all of its challenges.

Granted, I’ve only seen a very small portion of Africa. A few months in Uganda, a week in Swaziland, a couple weeks in South Africa, several weeks in Nairobi, and a very long four days in Nigeria has been the extent of my exposure to that continent.

So, when my friend Michael Hindes invited me to join him on a recent work trip to Kenya, I said “yes” without much real enthusiasm. Of course I’m always excited about hanging with my friends, but there is always a certain amount of dread for me when it comes to 24-plus hours of international travel.

Want to hear me whine about it? Okay! I don’t sleep on planes. The food is mostly disgusting. It doesn’t help that this 6’ 5” man has to find a way to get comfortable in a chair designed to fit a curled up 5th grader. Thank God I’m not germaphobic or freaked out about the free-radical radiation at 40,000 ft. I’d have to be sedated.

(BTW… thanks Michael for the Economy Comfort seat! Saved my frikk’n life.)

So, as we boarded our flights to Kenya, I was as devoid of expectation and excitement as I’ve ever experienced in the past 35 years. Just being honest here. I was open to the possibility of God showing himself, but I wasn’t placing demands in the ether for fireworks. I was settled to just be a passenger, a troll, a casual observer.

Stop giggling.

I thought, “I’ll roll with my buddy, and love on some orphans and everyone else. If God shows up… great! If not… I’m pretty solid in my confidence of His love. He doesn’t have to jump through any hoops on my account. Really, I’m good.”

Let me just go ahead and get to the bottom line here, and then I’ll fill in the gaps:

I GOT OVER BEING OVER IT!

After spending the first night in Nairobi, we drove towards the first ministry site. It was a 7-hour road trip to get to our destination. The first thing you notice when you travel across Kenya is an absurd amount (and intensity) of speed bumps. Holy Moly! The second thing you discover is that the traffic is a wee-bit sketchy. These people drive on the wrong frikk’n side of the road, and the biggest vehicle always wins. After you’ve got all that emotionally managed (without soiling yourself), then you can start taking in the culture and the scenery. It doesn’t take long to realize that Nairobi ain’t Kenya. Make no mistake about it:

NAIROBI AIN’T KENYA

It seems we Americans like to put fences around our stuff. We can’t let the big bad wolf in, so we fence in our livestock and ourselves. It didn’t take long to see that the countryside was littered with herds of livestock that were free roaming. Real shepherds were with each flock… no matter the size. It’s not a very familiar sight to us. Heck, I’m from Texas! You can’t do cattle without barbed wire!

I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of rhythm is required to live day in and day out among a grazing herd of animals? I wonder if those shepherds ever crave Starbucks or lament when they can’t get to their Twitter feeds? Do they give a crap about refreshing their Facebook or Instagram accounts, or getting their hair or nails did? In the big scheme, are they missing out on anything really important?

So let me just cut to it. Yes, I fell in love all over again with orphans, and missionaries, and the heart that some of the Church has for such ministries. The stuff that my buddy is involved in is significant and important. I’m very honored that I got to meet with the staff and feel the pulse of such loving cohesion. No one is pretending in that ministry. It’s the real stuff – feeding, clothing, loving, raising, and educating orphans. Quite frankly, it’s overwhelming to see such people do what they do. Either they are really called, or highly committed, or absolutely crazy. I suspect all three are in play in certain situations.

But eventually, my getting over being “over it” had more to do with a moment of worship. I’ve worshipped in everything from mud huts to cathedrals, churches to bars, camps to prisons, but never have I felt the ancient hum (the life, light, and love of God) in the land as I did during my week in Kenya! You can go to the “Oasis for Orphans” website and see the projects I’m about to mention, but God spoke loudly in each location in the most unfamiliar ways.

I get logos (and if you doubt my love for that, you don’t know me), and Spirit (even though it may not always be that noticeable). My history with the two is unshakable. But this new appreciation that the DNA of God is in pretty much everything there is, is exhilarating for me. There is no limit to how we can appreciate the Father’s love. Kenya drove that emphatically deeper into my soul. There is no end to His goodness.

The Hill felt like ancient majesty and the paths of royalty have tread there for millions of years. Is this where the Lord goes to consider the least of these, and lose himself in his own paintings and creativity? The tinkling cowbells demand that peace reign throughout those emerald hills.

The Valley hinted that the Garden of Eden had to be somewhere near that zip code. Life explodes from that red soil like wild lightening and thunder! There is no way not to notice it. No way.

The Shelter shines God’s radiant love though the laughter and love of children who hung on us like sloppy bathrobes. The guardians and mommas patrol as giant white Pyrenees who hover over and protect the most innocent ewes and lambs of the herd.

I can’t stop thanking God for allowing me to experience the soul of such places. Just maybe there’s more to loving God than getting the doctrine just right?

My pilgrimage to being over being “over it” concluded the last morning before flying back home. I was alone as the sun just peeked over the horizon, standing on a smoothed lava rock at the very edge of the Escarpment of the Masai Mara National Reserve. While looking over the lush plains of exotic wildlife, I felt I heard God say, “Will you acknowledge that I am is in this place?” A rush of repentance hit my heart. I felt ashamed for my previous judgments of Africa, its people, its politics, and the land. Who am I… who are we… to do such a thing? I did what I knew I had to do. I spoke the words, “I am sorry,” knelt, and kissed the ground, the rock that had become my altar of worship.

Those tears felt so good. I felt clean again, restored, back in unity with maybe one of the most beautiful places on earth. I was overwhelmed with the presence of His goodness.

Although I’m over being over Africa, it’s still a third world country with third world problems. But God has not left the building. If you can catch the rhythm, you, too, will feel the groove. And I truly believe it is Africa’s own groove and strength that will ultimately bring Africa what it needs most. Not our first world “church” or our obsession with our own gaudy religious rightness. Ultimately, Africa must fortify its own faith and trust in the goodness of God… even in… especially in… the people on the land of Africa.

Before I forget it, let me say that the hum and presence of God can be found just about anywhere. It can be witnessed at church (although it’s not a given), but it’s not bound only to religious activity, or your Bible study, or your devotional material. Go for a walk, a run, or a ride. Smell the fresh air, touch a tree. Examine a butterfly, a snail, or a bee. We can hear the hum in a freshly plowed field, or a steep trail, or that creek that runs behind the house. Even that 4 X 4 porch in your apartment complex can become you altar for worship. That space where you notice.

God is showing off in what He has created. Hearts that hear usually take notice. I think that is mostly what He wants. Our simple notice and value for what He’s done and continues to unfold before us.

Thanks for being the listening hearts of priests! I really appreciate it!

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

 

If you will, go check out the “Oasis for Orphans” website. They’re actually doing what they advertise. No fluff. No sell. Go see for yourself and consider helping out!

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Dave Brown
    May 9, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Stanley Hauerwas once said, “Jesus is Lord, and everything else is bullshit.” I feel that a lot. I’m over all the bullshit…but that first part brings me alive…and thank goodness for that first part. Thank you for being vulnerable with your stuff. Thanks for being a dad that models for sons and daughters how to walk. much love.

  2. Ann Smith
    May 10, 2017 at 5:16 am

    I love this on so many levels… One of my favourite days was the impromptu time at Coco’s hut. Thanks for bringing encouragement and challenging ideas to wrestle through. Would you mind sending over the book recommendations on dreams?

    • May 10, 2017 at 7:01 am

      Thanks dear. You people all wear crusader’s capes as far as I’m concerned. Expect my email! Much love! xo

  3. Joseph Rodriguez
    May 10, 2017 at 7:33 am

    Made my morning devotional time special.. Thanks for sharing your story Paschall.

    • May 10, 2017 at 7:42 am

      Thanks for reading Joseph! Love you Bro!

  4. Joyce Bentch
    May 12, 2017 at 3:08 am

    I cannot go to Africa but I can serve and minister to an orphan and am doing so in my home. We have had Emmanuel in our home since he was six months old. He is almost nine years old now and our final court hearing for his adoption is July 26, 2017. I worship God by taking care of him. It’s just as real and wonderful. Loved your article. Miss your sermons, Mike. God be with you.

  5. Cristianna Ruple
    May 12, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    Hmm…this feels all too familiar. In September, I’m rotating for one month in Tanzania and I can’t seem to shake the indifference about returning to East Africa. But I’m also hoping that oh-so-soon I can return to a pace of life that might help my heart return to a posture of hearing, noticing, and enjoying His presence more fully. Thankful for your life-giving words that you send out. Love you!

    • May 13, 2017 at 5:54 am

      So proud of what you’re doing…. who you are. xo

  6. Andrea Buchanan
    May 17, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your heart, your perspective, and your journey, Mike. It is a beautiful thing when God stirs what almost feels like magic within our souls and gives us fresh eyes to see what’s often times always been in front of us. Thanks for coming with us (even before the trip to Kenya began), for pouring out and loving on the kids and team, and for just being you.

  7. May 20, 2017 at 4:50 am

    I read this in an 150 year old building in Malaga Spain listening to both the birds and the distant roar of trucks and horns. The hum is here and reading this brings so much perspective back. Love you much and miss u

    • May 20, 2017 at 5:12 am

      Indeed! Love and miss you too! xo

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